Acts 16:11-15; Ps 149:1-6,9; Jn 15:26-16:4
What is the new song of praise heard in the assembly of the faithful? It is just another popular Christian Rock song? Or more appropriately for those who pray today’s Psalm—is it just a pop song from the Israelite Rock movement? Perhaps what is new in the praise and dancing is the sound of new voices. As the mission of Saint Paul and his companions begins to encounter the people of Macedonia, new language, new sound, new songs express the glory, joy, and high praises of all his faithful. Because of the faithful preaching of the apostles there are new songs to express the gratitude and delight of a new people of God who share the resurrection victory of the Lowly and Crucified One. Even though the witness, the disciples of the Lord Jesus, are rejected by some; their faith is not shaken. Indeed, their faith is strengthened because of the power and presence of the Paraclete. So too, for present day disciples of the Lord Jesus, we share the experience of rejection, but do we share the experience of the Paraclete?
After careful listening to the voice of the Paraclete, the Helper, the Holy Spirit, Saint Paul and his companions enter the very foreign world of the Greeks. One of their first encounters takes place on the Sabbath, outside the city, at the riverbank. Instead of meeting co-religionists in a synagogue they find the place of prayer that substituted for the building. Perhaps because it was outside, women and Gentiles seemed to be welcomed. Saint Paul found in Lydia, she already reverenced God, a bold listener who converted and was baptized along with her household in the convenient river nearby. Lydia had a business as a dealer in purple goods. She was bold as a businesswoman and bold in her newfound faith. Lydia showed Saint Paul and his companions a generous hospitality. It seems that missionary work has an effect on both the convert and the converter. How could Saint Paul reject Lydia’s invitation? As the reading explains, she managed to prevail on us. Witnesses, who were rejected by co-religionists, disciples, who were thrown out of synagogues, found in foreigners praying on a riverbank openness and hospitality.
The Witness sent from the Father, who is one with the Son, will bear witness to the Son and enable the disciples to bear the same witness to the Son. From early on in the final discourse of Saint John’s gospel the Lord Jesus has been warning his disciples. Your faith will be shaken because like the Lord you will be expelled from some of the synagogues. Just like Saul before his conversion to Saint Paul, certain fellow Jews will see it as a religious duty to silence your witness in whatever way necessary. Because they have not been with Jesus from the beginning and because they have not received the Paraclete, they do not have faith in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father. The Gospel is open to their conversion; just as the hated and feared Saul was converted so too others were converted. Saint John does not have the Lord command them to be strong. Indeed, to abide with, trust in, and act out of the power and presence of the Paraclete is the only way we can keep our faith from being shaken. It is this faith that brings us to the Eucharist, and it is this faith which is nourished by the Holy Spirit.